$50K fine for IKEA’s shaky firing

The furniture giant has been rebuked after dismissing a worker over milkshake-related misconduct.

$50K fine for IKEA’s shaky firing
rsquo;s no use crying over spilled milk or, in this case, stolen milkshake – that’s the advice employers at IKEA Ireland should have taken before firing one experienced employee.

The retail giant has been hit with a €30,000 fine – equivalent to NZ$50,000 – after it sacked bistro worker Ian Fortune for drinking a milkshake without paying for it.

Fortune, who had worked at IKEA since 2009, did not dispute taking the milkshake but insisted it was an honest mistake. Bosses disagreed and viewed the incident as gross misconduct.

A subsequent investigation and disciplinary meetings were held but Dublin-based Fortune failed to turn up – he told an employment tribunal that they were held while he was on a pre-booked family holiday to France and he had never been informed of them.

The employment tribunal eventually ordered IKEA to pay significant compensation to Fortune after a judge ruled the organisation has falsely categorized the slip-up as serious misconduct and therefore had unfairly dismissed him.

It concluded that; “taken all in all and given the circumstances of the milkshakes and the conversation at the time the Tribunal is not satisfied that the matter amounts to a ‘substantial ground justifying the dismissal.”

Auckland-based employment lawyer Carl Blake told HRM that the most common firing mistake among New Zealand employers was “a lack of following a fair process.”

“Regardless of how absolutely clear an employee’s misconduct may be in the sense of even being videoed stealing money or engaging in absolutely serious misconduct, a process still needs to be followed allowing the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegations and the proposal to dismiss them before any decisions are made,” he stressed.

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